Staying Fit in the 21st Century

Do you often finding it daunting to trudge into the gym on a weekday morning? Is it seemingly impossible to choose the salad over the cheeseburger? Do you "beat yourself up" and feel guilty if you hit the snooze button or gobble up the Big Mac?

Don't, it's not helpful.

There are reasons why healthy choices do not always come so naturally to us in modern society. Some of the reasons have to do with your biological makeup. Gyms and a plethora of food choices are relatively new concepts in the history of man, and our minds and bodies are still struggling to adapt. Evolution has determined how your body interacts with the environment, and unfortunately it works much slower in comparison to our capacity for technological advancement.

The bodies we have today are part of the continuous process of evolution. We are the select "type" of human that has survived based on our ability to thrive in the present environment. Our bodies have the capacity to grow and strengthen when needed, and can derive energy from multiple sources in the environment around us. We have evolved to fit the environment well enough to survive and carry on.

Today, most of us are doing more than simply surviving. Our species has added extra brain power, which we have used over the past few hundred years to drastically change our surroundings. We have invented and mass produced technologies that keep us healthier (soap), make us more efficient (dishwashers), reduce our energy expenditure (elevators), and provide us with plenty of readily available food sources (Taco Bell).

This has all happened in a very small portion of our overall history, leaving our biological evolution trailing far behind. In other words, our capacity to solve problems and invent things has drastically changed our environment and the way our bodies respond to it.

Back to fitness and your occasional aversion to the gym and mixed greens. Our current bodies are designed to walk, run, jump, squat, crawl, lift, tug, climb, etc. in order to move around or escape danger. Our bodies are also programmed to convert protein (meat, nuts), carbs (fruits, veggies, grains), and fat (nuts, seeds, oils, animal sources) into energy. If we lift and climb things a lot, our bodies will adapt by building muscle and getting stronger so that we become better at those tasks. If instead our lifestyle demands we run a lot, our bodies would adjust to be better at that too. If we get a surplus of energy in the form of fat, protein, or carbs, our bodies will store any excess for later use. Our body is extremely efficient at conforming to the demands of our environment to maximize survival.

But today, for most of us, there is no need to run, jump, climb, or lift. Even walking a lot is no longer necessary. For most, food is never in short supply. We have all types of food readily available whenever we want. In lots of cases this is useful, but our bodies are still programmed for the environment before fast food and cars. Which brings us to staying fit in our current environment.

To create a body that is fit, think about its natural functions and try to implement these into your daily life....

First, your body is built to move around, perform hard tasks, and burn high amounts of calories. If you are an average American adult, your lifestyle does not fill this need. This is why gyms were created, to provide you with opportunities to lift and perform tasks that used to make up the average human's daily routine. This is a new concept of "artificial activity". The nice thing is that we do not need to do it constantly to get good results. Some of us (Good Personal Trainers) have figured out exactly what exercises accomplish a fit body. Anywhere from 2 to 6 one hour workouts a week will satisfy your body's need for activity, regardless of how much you do outside of that.

How about nutrition? The more you consume the foods that your body was meant to have, the more robust it will be. This means that natural sources, such as veggies, fruits, and meats, will always trump artificial and tampered food. We prefer the artificial and tampered foods because they appeal to our biological preferences. Our bodies are wired to love things that are sweet, salty, and fatty. This is because a) they provide energy and b) are rarely found in nature. In the past, when we got a hold of one of these things, our body wanted use to consume as much as possible. 


Now, because we are smart, we have found ways to grow and create all types of foods that taste this way. They may not be nutritious for us, but our body does not know that, so it asks for lots and stores whatever extra we may eat.

When thinking about what to eat, don't label foods as "good" and "bad". Everything is okay for you in proper amounts. The real question that should guide your decision is "what value am I getting from this food/drink?" The higher the quality of food, the better energy you will have and the more fit you will become.

I haven't provided you with any new groundbreaking methods to become fit. What I may have offered you instead is another way to view why exercise and proper nutrition will help you attain a fit and healthy body. A body that is sedentary and overweight is simply out of balance. It isn't expending the amount of energy it was built to expend and is receiving and storing more calories than it needs to exist in its current environment. The simple fix is to restore balance. Use the gym as a resource for the body to fulfill tasks it was built to perform, and choose high quality foods in the right amounts to maximize energy and minimize weight gain. We've used our brains to make survival easy and life comfortable. Now we must use them to treat our body right in the new environment we have created.